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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2000

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Conference Reports

The Impact of Electronic Publishing on Scholarly Communication: A Forum on the Future, October 26-27, 2000
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Libraries

Jane Duffy
Physics/Astronomy Librarian
Ohio State University Libraries

"A Forum on the Future" addressed the academic community's growing concerns about the increasing numbers, titles and prices of scholarly scientific publications, especially as they now exceed the capacity of many libraries' current resources to make these materials accessible. Developed and organized by Karen Schmidt and Greg Youngen, both of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Libraries, the "Forum on the Future" hosted 165+ registered participants. Although the timely topic is extremely popular in professional discourse and library journal literature, the "Forum on the Future" distinguished itself as unique; its solution-oriented focus was on tomorrow rather than on problems with which we are well acquainted today. The conference was planned so that voices were heard from all stakeholders in the scientific scholarly communications chain, i.e., from academics as authors/readers, academic librarians as consumers and intermediaries, scholarly societies and commercial publishers as brokers of peer review, marketing and promotion.

Speakers were asked to address their own experiences with the provision that they include 3 major themes. First, they were to discuss emerging trends, behaviors, and changes which they see taking place within the next decade. Secondly, they were asked to describe changes in the systems of scholarly communication and publishing that they find troubling. And finally, organizers sought the speakers' views on how change could improve the quality of scholarly communication.

The Thursday program was devoted to stakeholders in the creation of scientific databases. The first speaker, Clifford Lynch, of the Coalition for Networked Information, set an optimistic tone by addressing infrastructural changes in the scholarly communications process, while identifying new opportunities and challenges for information professionals. His presentation of new genres of scholarly communications, including reconceptualized non-sequential packaging of information, was referred to - and occasionally challenged - throughout the remainder of the conference. Carol Tenopir of the University of Tennessee presented data gathered over three decades examining fundamentals of scientists' information needs and offered four "lessons" which could serve as a heuristic model for libraries committed to meeting those needs.

Other Thursday speakers included Daniel Greenstein of the Digital Library Federation, who spoke to the issue of peer review, predicting that although peer review will "always be in demand", there will also be a increasing parallel demand for mainstream publication of - and improved access to - gray or "unreviewed" materials, such as e-prints, computer-based learning content and electronic discourse communities. Greenstein wondered if libraries could meet this challenge and if not, whether they would be replaced - at least partially - by portal services made available directly by publishers. Julia Blixrud of SPARC gave an interesting overview of new models of scholarly publishing such as BioOne, Dspace, and Project Euclid. As a guide to the improvement of the current scholarly communications model, Blixrud made a case for the development of standards for archiving, authentication, rights management and description, etc. To Blixrud, the greatest challenge for the future is the ability of academic libraries to purchase more journal content more economically. She pointed to the SPARC "Create Change" campaign as a means for making this happen. Pulling together the scholarly issues raised throughout the day, University of Kansas Provost, David E. Shulenburger, outlined a series of principles for adjusting current, unsustainable models for copyright, fair use and costs, and he presented the ideas within the context of statistics on academic journal price increases.

Friday's sessions were reserved for publishers, scholarly societies, and commercial vendors who presented issues related to review, marketing and other value-added services. Tim Ingoldsby of the American Institute of Physics shared his predictions that the online journal would become the "copy of record;" Ingoldsby also made some provocative comments about what he foresees as the "deconstruction of the journal" and the restructuring of the secondary publishing industry. Using the "tanagram analogy" of smooth edges despite changing configurations, Mark Doyle of the American Physical Society next offered a model of "layering of the independent features of publishing" as a possible response to researcher driven information demands. Steve Moss of the Institute of Physics echoed many of Doyle's and Ingoldsby's predictions. Moss, however, devoted a greater proportion of his presentation to future pricing models. Other speakers, including Justin Spence of the American Chemical Society and Michiel Kolman of Reed Elsevier, discussed further the topics of pricing structures and the merits of cost-benefit analyses as a means by which to guide establishment of those structures. These latter issues spurred lively questioning from the audience.

The "Forum on the Future" closed with presentations from senior members of the scientific information establishment, who recapitulated and tied together many of the philosophical concerns that had been raised throughout the conference. Issues such as the continued "certifying function" of the book and the journal, growing collaborations among university presses, and striving for the right balance between "bricks and clicks," were the major themes that closed the conference. While many differing visions and perspectives on scientific publishing had been presented throughout the exciting two-day program, participants left with the feeling that scholarly communications will stay vital through such dialogue. Optimism runs high that it will continue with vigor.

Notes from the "Forum for the Future" as well as copies of the overheads may be found at: {}

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